Side with Cilic at Queen's
As the ATP World Tour moves onto the grasscourts, our Andy Schooler picks out his best bets for Queen's Club and Halle.
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Andy Murray once again starts favourite at Queen's Club this week as the ATP World Tour moves onto the grass.
As a three-time winner, it's easy to make a case for him to succeed again and he'll have his supporters at 2/1.
He played some of the best claycourt tennis of career at Roland Garros over the past fortnight and should not allow his semi-final thrashing at the hands of eventual champion Rafael Nadal to overshadow things.
- 1pt e.w. Marin Cilic to win the Aegon Championships at 14/1 (General) - strong grasscourt record, particularly here
- 1pt Dmitry Tursunov to win the second quarter at the Aegon Championships at 13/2 (Sky Bet) - in decent nick & more than capable on grass
- 1pt e.w. Milos Raonic to win the Gerry Weber Open at 8/1 (bet365) - doubts over Nadal, Canadian is maturing & serve a big weapon
- 0.5pt e.w. Ivo Karlovic to win the Gerry Weber Open at 40/1 (bet365) - serving well lately; that's good news for him on grass & bad for the rest
However, we should also point out that is is now almost a year since Murray beat a player ranked inside the world's top 20 - Novak Djokovic was that man in the Wimbledon final - and although the Scot missed a few months following back surgery, that's not an encouraging statistic for his backers.
The surface is in his favour - few players handle the grass as well as he does - and it's worth noting that he had few problems with fatigue in 2011, the only other year he made the semis in Paris. He duly rocked up at Queen's a few days later and won.
However, there also has to be a chance that there will be a reaction in Murray's back coming off the clay and onto the grass - the lower bounce won't help on that score and surface changes are something Murray has been wary of when it comes to injury in the past.
Personally I can leave him alone at the price and instead head to the top half where Marin Cilic offers some each-way value.
The Croat win this title in 2012 and lost to Murray in last year's final. Those of you who read my Net Talk column on the grasscourt season last week will know I'm keen on his chances in the coming weeks.
Former Wimbledon champion Goran Ivanisevic is a good man to have as your coach heading onto the grass and Cilic has the game to go well on this surface.
His results on it show that and he's also got strong fast-court form this season having won in Zagreb and finished runner-up in Rotterdam.
At 14/1 I'm prepared to side with him.
Admittedly Cilic does have a tricky draw, Marinko Matosevic will be no gimme in round one after the Australian finished runner-up at Nottingham's Aegon Trophy Challenger tournament on Sunday.
Jo-Wilfried Tsonga is another who knows his way around a grasscourt and Cilic could play the Frenchman in the last 16. However, Cilic leads their head-to-head 3-1, including a match at this venue and a straight-sets success in Rotterdam in February.
I'm not too concerned by the in-and-out Stan Wawrinka, the top seed whose grasscourt record does not match that of Cilic, so if the Croat can see off Tsonga, I feel he can claim a spot in the final and make a profit regardless of whether he then loses to Murray or not.
The other bet I like in the top half is for Dmitry Tursunov to win the second quarter at 13/2 with Sky Bet.
Grigor Dimitrov is seeded to win this section but your never too sure what you'll get with the Bulgarian, who lost in the first round of the French Open.
Tursunov is a player who has enjoyed some decent results this season and also has some pedigree on grass.
The Russian is now the wrong side of 30 but his long career has brought titles on this surface in Eastbourne and Den Bosch in the past, while here at Queen's he made the semis in 2007 and last eight the year before.
In recent weeks he lost in the quarter-finals in Nice but only in a final-set tie-break to eventual champion Ernests Gulbis, while in Paris he took a set off Roger Federer before losing in four which was no disgrace.
He seems worth a bet to small stakes in what looks the weakest part of the draw.
Moving on, the aforementioned Nadal used to play Queen's to warm-up for Wimbledon but he heads to Halle these days and both he and Federer will line up in Germany this week.
They are seeded first and second but whether Nadal will show or not after his French Open exploits remains to be seen. He withdrew after winning Roland Garros last year and it would be no surprise to see him do so again - hence the reason some layers have been reluctant to price up.
The last couple of years suggest he would do well to play. Nadal lost in the first round of Wimbledon to Steve Darcis last season and the year before Lukas Rosol did for him in round two. There are other examples of how the Spaniard has struggled early upon switching to the grass.
However, even if he does turn up, history suggests he should be opposed this week. In the past, Nadal has played on seven occasions in the week immediately after a Roland Garros triumph but on only one of those occasions has he lifted a trophy - at Queen's in 2008.
The other six have brought exits in the quarter-finals or earlier. In short, he can't be backed this week.
Instead the man I like the look of in the top half of the draw is Milos Raonic.
He made the quarter-finals in Paris and played some sound tennis before running into Novak Djokovic.
With his huge serve, he's got a proper weapon on this surface and although he doesn't have a great record on the lawns, it seems only a matter of time before he gets to grips with it.
It took even the great Pete Sampras a while to figure the grass out and this is definitely something of a maturing season for the Canadian who is now into the top 10 and has his sights set of climbing even higher.
I'll keep stake small but back him at 8/1.
In Federer's half I'm also prepared to throw a few coins at Ivo Karlovic.
The Croatian's huge serve always makes him a threat on the grass - two of his five ATP titles have come on the green stuff.
The main reason I want to side with Karlovic though is that his serving weapon is in good working order right now.
He blasted down more than 70 aces en route to the Dusseldorf Open final last month - some effort on clay - and another 22 in beating Dimitrov in round one of the French Open.
His run ended at the third-round stage due to a back problem which is a tad worrying but after a week's rest he issued a positive report.
Following an MRI scan he was soon given the green light to return to the court and the fact that he's also entered the doubles tournament this week suggests there's no lingering issue.
40/1 is simply too big for me.